Monday, February 18, 2013

Howard ranks the Oscar nominees

It’s Oscar week, so here I am with my annual list.  This is one year when it turned out to be fairly easy to see all nine Academy Award Best Picture nominees.  They’re all pretty good – and when I say pretty good, that means they are movies that I like and/or admire, but what the heck do I know?

OK, here is how I rank them, from the ones I like best to the ones I like not as much.  Make your own list.  J

1.       Les Misérables.  OK, this isn’t going to win because there aren’t enough Academy voters who like film versions of Broadway musicals and there might be plenty who don’t like Les Miz music in particular, but I do and it’s my list, but, besides that, this is a great adaption from every aspect.  Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway deserve acting Oscars too.

2.       Silver Linings Playbook.  I loved everything about this movie, and maybe only a Philadelphia Eagles fan would say everything.  If Hugh Jackman doesn’t win Best Actor for Les Miz, then Bradley Cooper should win for his role in this film as a man with bipolar disorder, but of course neither one will win because Daniel Day-Lewis will for Lincoln and how much more room does that guy have on his mantle for statuettes?  Jennifer Lawrence should win the Best Actress Oscar.

3.       Django Unchained.  Hey, I’m not telling you to see this movie, because not all of you could handle it, but it’s sort of a work of brutal genius.  It’s a fantasy re-working of a time in the history of slavery in the U.S.  Christoph Waltz will probably win Best Supporting Actor for his part as a bounty hunter in this film (Although if Robert Deniro wins that Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook, I’ll probably stand up and cheer).

4.       Amour.  OK, you’re going to say, Isn’t it enough that this film will win the Best Foreign Film award?  And I know not many of you are going to go see a French movie with English subtitles, but this is an amazing film about aging and death and love.

5.       Life of Pi.  We saw Life of Pi in 3D, and I’m not sure if 3D is an addition or subtraction when comparing film quality.  Life of Pi is beautiful, though, and if David R. Russell doesn’t win Best Director for Silver Linings Playbook, then I’d like to see Ang Lee win for this movie (Although there is a case to be made for Michael Haneke for Amour)

6.       Argo.  This is another excellent film and is the odds-on favorite to win Best Picture, partly because Ben Affleck is so well liked in Hollywood. It just didn’t grab me the way my Top 5 did.  The scenes of the taking of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran feel very real.

7.       Lincoln.  Lincoln is great historical drama, and I can’t argue that Daniel Day-Lewis isn’t a perfect Abraham Lincoln.  The whole movie just feels awfully predictable to me, and I can’t stand the uplifting John Williams music.  As I’ve said before, that guy hasn’t written a creative soundtrack since the original Star Wars trilogy.

8.       Beasts of the Southern Wild.  A hard-to-describe film about people living in a very isolated swampland of southern Louisiana and, in particular, the interaction between a young girl and her father as they lose their homeland.  The actress playing the young girl is nominated for an Oscar.  The actor playing the dad should have been nominated for Best Supporting Actor, in my opinion.

9.       Zero Dark Thirty.  While this is a film to see – it’s about the hunt for Obama bin Laden, I find it disappointing too.  The CIA agents seem too stereotypical, and the torture scenes are overdone and misleading.

The Oscar telecast is this Sunday.  Watching the red-carpet interviews beforehand is optional.

Friday, February 15, 2013

news out of atlantic city

A big week for Atlantic City, New Jersey, and it's not often that Atlantic City has a big week during the month of February.

First, and most importantly, the Miss America Pageant is returning to Atlantic City, the city of the pageant's birth and most of its storied past.  It's kind of like the return of the Prodigal Daughter, and city promoters are probably tempted to kill a fatted calf in celebration.

And now Trump Plaza, one of the more prominent hotel casinos in Atlantic City, is being sold to new investors for a bargain-basement dollar amount, and the Trump name will come tumbling down.  Now you know that I have spent no money at Trump Plaza since Donald Trump became a political nutcase cartoon and so you might think that this just gives me a laugh.... and part of me does chuckle.

But I feel a sad nostalgia too.  Trump wasn't always this crazy, and back in the day (meaning the mid-'80's) I used to love taking my mom to Trump Plaza.  We had so much fun there, and I miss that.  Or maybe it's just my mom that I miss, and Trump Plaza is just one of the reminders.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

he handed me a pink rose

As I drove into the parking garage at the office this morning, the parking attendant handed me a pink rose.  No, it wasn't personal:  he was doing it for everybody as they drove in.  It's apparently to show love between garage-ramp managers and us parkers on this Valentine's Day.  Isn't that nice?  Here I thought our relationship was purely physical!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

benedict, hanging out at the senior citizens' center

Well, no, I didn't watch the State of the Union address last night.  Sure, I love Obama, but have you ever seen a State of the Union speech that wasn't annoying?

So instead, I'll talk about something else of which I know very little:  popes.

Admittedly, I'm not Catholic, and I really don't get the whole pope thing -- I mean, why there are such things as popes.  But, whatever, the pope always has a way of staying in the news.

Consider, in my lifetime, we've had some unusual pope events.  There was Pope John Paul I back in the late '70s, who died 33 days after becoming pope, followed by Pope John Paul II, who was shot in an assassination attempt.  Now we have the latest guy, Pope Benedict XVI, who just announced this week that he is resigning.  He is the first pope to resign since the year 1415.

Being pope is a lifetime appointment, so this is very unusual.  And what does he do now?  Watch The Price is Right every morning?  Buy an RV?  Or might you run into him as you have your grilled cheese sandwich for lunch at the Senior Citizens' Center?  He seems like a most unpleasant sort of fellow, so you better hope he doesn't sit next to you.  You're not going to want to hear his stories about the good ol' days.

Monday, February 11, 2013

'buzzer' at the guthrie

Photo by Michal Daniel for the Guthrie Theater.

The mark of a effective play is that you find yourself still thinking about it and relating to it two days later.

Buzzer, a play written by Tracey Scott Wilson, had its world premiere here in Minneapolis by the Pillsbury House Theater company in 2012 and this past Saturday night began a run, again staged by Pillsbury House, in the Dowling Studio at the Guthrie Theater.

The story deals with race, love, addiction, friendship.  The trio of actors are outstanding, especially Hugh Kennedy as the addict, Don, just out of rehab and needing a place to live.  He moves in with his very successful best friend, Jackson, an African-American who lives with his white girlfriend in a "hood" that is being gentrified.  They all have a past with each other that they deal with along with the neighborhood race issues that they try so hard to ignore -- until they can't.

This play may still be a work-in-progress -- I'm not sure the ending is quite right yet -- but it's an entertaining evening of theater that challenges.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

I'm lost

OK, the Blackberry had to go.  The stupid thing was dying mid day, sometimes in the middle of  a phone call.

So I've made the leap to the iPhone5, and as I try to figure it out, I'm noticing that the Blackberry, lame as it may be, had its advantages.  Now I explore the iPhone magic.  Change isn't easy for me.

Friday, February 8, 2013

coffee at the A & P

I've been working late hours and needed a break, so I didn't set the alarm for this morning but woke up early  anyway and am having a leisurely, quiet little while alone at home before heading to the office.  Jerry is upstairs still asleep; otherwise, I'd probably be playing the piano instead of blogging.

The coffee this morning is extra good.  I've been buying Eight O'Clock coffee (and alternating with Wawa coffee, which we buy on line).  I recently discovered Eight O'Clock on the grocery shelves at Lund's, and seeing it there took me back in my memory to when I used to go to the grocery store with my mom.  At the A & P grocery store in downtown Millville, I'd walk along the coffee aisle, where they sold Eight O'Clock coffee, and I'd just stand there and sniff the coffee aroma.  I was too young to drink coffee, but I always remember what that part of the store felt like, just from how wonderful the coffee smelled.

In this Google world, I of course wondered whatever happened to the A & P grocery store chain.  Well, it's still out there, just under multiple names.  The Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company (hence, A & P) operates stores under various names.  There are still some A & Ps in part of the country, and Pathmark is one of their other store names.  You may know that one.  That's your retail education for the day.  Have a good one.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

a sad commentary

I'm too busy to blog today!
Later:  Never mind.  I found some time.

Did you ever notice how little it can take to wreck a day?  Do you ever have anybody say exactly the wrong thing and you spend the rest of the day thinking how you should have responded?  You finally come up with the words that you should have said, and you don't know whether to go back to that person and open up the subject again -- or stew for a while and then hope you can just forget?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

reasons to like joe flacco

Sorry to be back to a Super Bowl topic, but I didn't know until after the game that Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens quarterback and Most Valuable Player of the game, is a South Jersey boy -- specifically, from Audubon, New Jersey.  So how can you not like him?

But here is some more silliness of 2013 America:  After the game, during the Ravens celebration, the CBS Sports microphones were on, and Joe Flacco was heard to yell "F---ing awesome!"

So what?  The guy was excited.  But now CBS might be fined for letting that word be heard live by innocent American ears.  Oh come on, guys!  Would you rather he was yelling "I'm going to Disney World!" ?  I wish the First Amendment had as many outspoken defenders as the Second Amendment has!

Monday, February 4, 2013

A is bombing

Things aren't going as well as I would like, dude.  I need a Plan B.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

mid-winter sports update, part 2

The most exciting part of the Super Bowl so far: the 35-minute power outage.

Added later:  Up to the power outage, it looked like it was going to be a Ravens blowout, but it turned out to be a good game after all.  Final:  Baltimore 34, San Francisco 31.  For next year, let's hope for either the Eagles or the Vikings instead.  Ha ha, just kidding.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

mid-winter sports update

Professional sports are not, for me this year, providing any respite from dreariness.  Consider:

My favorite team this time of year is the basketball Minnesota Timberwolves, and what started out as a promising season last fall turned deadly by December when the team's best player, Kevin Love, was injured, followed by almost the whole rest of the team.  The Wolves have once again sunk low in the standings, and attending the games has become a somewhat dismal experience.  Just once I would like to see how good this team might be if everyone could be playing at 100% capacity physically.

The National Hockey League, after a very late start due to another annoying owner lockout, is back on ice, and expectations for the Minnesota Wild were very high until they actually started playing games.  Now they look like their usual average selves.

End of football for a while:  Super Bowl tomorrow, in New Orleans.  Any guesses how many people by next month will remember who played in it?  If you happen to be looking at this post months from now, I'll remind you:  San Francisco 49ers vs. Baltimore Ravens.  The good thing to be said about that matchup is that it's better than the potential alternatives, the runners-up:  New England Patriots vs. Atlanta Falcons.

Skip all of the above and go to the gym.

Friday, February 1, 2013

uptown boys

Well, Jerry's orthopedic doctor gave him the okay to mostly go off the scooter.  His foot is still a ways from being healed, though, so he wears that boot and limps around like Chester on Gunsmoke.  My fear, of course, is that he will push himself too hard and give his recovery a setback.

Last night, we ventured to the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis, Jerry hobbling next to me on frozen sidewalks, and went to the recently renovated Uptown Theater, where we saw the French movie, Amour, which still has me pondering the meaning of aging and physical deterioration.  It's my eighth of the nine Oscar-nominated films this year, and I'm still struggling with how I want to rank them.  They're all good.  One to go.